Floating My Fears Away

Seine river and Notre Dame cathedralI bunched my jacket into a pillow and lay back to absorb the sun rays. It’s as if they had been allocated especially for Paris this beautiful Sunday afternoon. It couldn’t have been more than 60 degrees, yet felt so warm. Hundreds of people gathered along this grassy park that abutted the Seine. Spring fever had definitely taken hold. Alex seemed happy. He and the other two boys dropped rocks into the water while Jill and Caitlin scrutinized the shirtless young men walking by. Donna and Marit sat nearby, chatting non-stop. The aroma of spicy perfume, warm grass, and cigarette smoke filled the air. Young and old alike enjoyed this sudden break in the weather – sitting on blankets, snacking on a variety of goods, and sipping wine. Couples kissed, boys played hacky-sack, and little dogs desperately tried to escape from their leashes. I loved watching my fellow Parisians. Yes, I had become one of them now. I pondered how I would break the news to Donna that I wasn’t going to leave. This would be our new home – here, at this park. We’d take up residency right under the Chestnut trees.

No, I wasn’t chickening out. Well, maybe I was. We were supposed to be taking a train to Spain – something I was dreading (a few days earlier they’d found a bomb on a track near Toledo). That morning, we’d woken up at the crack of dawn, packed up, and checked out, all the while my stomach turning. At the train station we found out we didn’t have proper reservations and no other seats were available. My reckoning with Spain was coming, but not today.

The nice people at our hotel took us back for another night and even helped change our reservations at the next hotel. Mun, the woman running things, gave us her personal phone number and offered to help us if we should need anything over the next five months.

It was such a nice day, we headed right to the river and took one of those open deck boat tours. How cool to see the bridges of Paris the way they were meant to be seen – from the water below.  The Pont Alexandre III is the most extravagant of them all. As we got close, the golden winged horses performed for us. The cherubs and nymphs looked directly at us and seemed so life like, I actually waved at them. Our captain announced the Pont Marie was coming up and it was known as the “bridge of lovers” and instructed us to grab somebody special because kissing underneath it would bring eternal love or something like that. This sudden pressure to kiss reminded me of New Years Eve, but Donna obliged. It was an unexpected pleasure.

We returned to Ile de la Cité – the island where we’d seen Notre Dam on our first day because Donna wanted to see the underground museum that housed the remnants of a  Roman wall. This was also where Celtic tribes originally settled over 2,000 years earlier and I realized why. There was something extra special about this island. I definitely felt something there, and not from the beer the waiter insisted I order at lunch. Seriously, he insisted. While waiting in line to see the wall, Jill and I broke out into song – I’m so Excited by the Pointer Sisters. Not something we normally do, but this energy came over us. Seeing the wall was okay, but most of us were anxious to get back up in the sun. That’s when we found the riverside park.

So there I was, laying on concrete enjoying the people that only days earlier I’d feared. What an idiot I was. This city was nothing like I’d imagined, because that was nothing more than a collection of junk I’d compiled from the wrong information. I shuddered at the thought of never coming here.

NEXT: More Bombs Found on Rail Tracks in Spain. All Aboard!

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